e begin our article with a look
at two species of Synodontis that are very popular
in the aquarium hobby.
The Polka-dot catfish occurs naturally
in the Malebo (Stanley) Pool area of Zaire. Colour varies
with populations from those that have dull grey bodies
speckled with white spots through to those whose bodies
are a brilliant jet black and adorned with spots of the
brightest yellow. Although the majority of textbooks still
give 20cm (8”) as the maximum size attained by these
fish, specimens greatly in advance of this size are known.
These fish are lively and boisterous in temperament.
The Marbled catfish originates from the surroundings
of the Cameroon stretch of the Congo River. There is much
variability in the colour pattern between individuals.
Generally the pattern can be described as being of a brown
or black background with waves of yellow or white in the
foreground. This fish also attains a size of 20cm - but
often less in aquaria.
During the autumn of 2006 a local aquatic retailer, who
knows of my passion for ‘all things Synodontis’
told me that he had ordered a Synodontis angelicus,
through a Czech Republic aquarium fish consolidator, for
a fellow ‘good customer’. The ‘angelicus’
arrived with a note informing the retailer that the available
fish was actually a cross between angelicus and
schoutedeni. The retailer had hoped to keep this
fish long enough for me to see but the person who ordered
it accepted delivery straightaway, been highly satisfied
with this beautiful hybrid.
A few weeks later, and at a different outlet, my eyes
were drawn to a label that proclaimed ‘Synodontis
species’. When the beautiful little fish emerged
from its favourite tube I realised that it was something
different and the patterning of the fins (clearly angelicus)
and foreground white waves on the body (clearly schoutedeni)
gave away the hybrid identity. The assistant quickly had
it caught and ‘bagged’ for me.
Angelicus x schoutedeni
On arriving home the angelicus hybrid, as I refer
to it, was placed into a 60x30x30cm aquarium with a Synodontis
petricola x nigrita hybrid, a small Mystus
gulio, several young Ancistrus and 2 male
and 5 female Dutch Pearl Mouthbrooders (themselves a hybrid
specie of Oreochromis) from my 4th generation
of these lovely fish.
As the photographs show (above)
the body of my angelicus hybrid has a typical
young angelicus shape with fins to match. The
foreground shows no spotting but has a lovely bright white
(sometimes taking on a golden hue) schoutedeni
Synodontis petricola x nigrita
I have no idea as to exactly what the young angelicus
hybrid was fed with in Eastern Europe but with me it would
only eat vegetable-based flaked foods (as can be the case
with both wild caught and aquarium bred Synodontis
decorus). Today this little beauty takes all types
of flaked foods, granular foods, catfish pellets and small
pieces of both prawn and Thai crabstick.
Growth has been on par with a young
schoutedeni. In behaviour ‘his’ actions
are less boisterous than angelicus and he hides
away much less than can be expected from schoutedeni.
Now in a 90x30x30cm aquarium, and in more mixed company
than when ‘he’ first arrived, he is not a
complete model of good behaviour but is more placid than
many of the Synodontis hybrids of Eastern European
Angelicus x schoutedeni hybrid
Talking with several aquatic retailers revealed that all
of the first ‘batches’ of this angelicus
hybrid were identical in colour pattern etc. to the fish
in my care but the situation is now changing with a whole
range of patterning showing through in new ‘batches’.
How is the hybrid created?
There are many accounts of Synodontis
from the African Rift Valley lakes spawning in aquaria
but sadly, and probably with the exception of eupterus
and nigriventris; very few accounts exist of
aquarium spawnings of riverine species. Schoutedeni
is one of several riverine species (which also includes
alberti, atterimus and ocellifer), which will,
however, reproduce very easily through a process of hormone
stimulization. In the past several attempts were made
to reproduce angelicus, itself of riverine origin,
in this way but until very recently, success was very
limited. It would appear, therefore, that more success
is gained through making an angelicus x
schoutedeni cross and this would make strong economic
sense as from the little we know about Synodontis
breeding in Eastern Europe the fish breeders find the
fry of crossed Synodontis are much stronger and
healthier (as is the case with mongrel dogs) to raise
than those of a single species spawning.
Little wonder then that on ethical
grounds the production of hybrid Synodontis is
a very thorny issue that causes great differences and
debate among aquarists. Personally I feel that there is
a need to catalogue as many of the hybrid Synodontis
(which is not a ‘one person project’ as some
seem to appear in one area of the World and not in others
depending on where a particular consolidator has customers)
as we can as some, for example ‘species Ice' (an
ocellifer variant) and the brightly coloured
njassae crossed with ‘Czech pardalis’,
seem to arrive with us as ‘one time only shipments’
and it is not to say that the production of any form of
hybrid fish will continue in the long term.
Finally I do not think that anyone
looking at the photographs that accompany this article
could argue that the angelicus crossed with schoutedeni
hybrid is not a beautiful fish.
Angelicus x schoutedeni hybrid